Three Poems

Poetry / Page Hill Starzinger

:: L’Esperance Trail ::

	St John, VI 

But then a second storm—and 
even the slight path carved
by deer hooves 
and iguana claws 
drops off, into landslide,	
tumbles down to broken 
Cretaceous basalt, 
micro crystalline chert.
But we are caught 
at the top of the spill, 
thorny vines 
wiring a dry forest 
with barbs. 
This is nowhere, a
washout. Where land
once was, now a map
of empty space. But look
at the mosquitoes, 
sulfur butterflies,
and pearly-eyed thrashers 
threading their bodies
through invisible scent tracks 
sifting above prickly pear cactus,
wild tamarind and 
turpentine trees leaning
over the edge.
As if, to show us
another passage
is possible. 
                     Oh, but, look 
how my mind
is always expecting to
find a way down.


:: Physicists Simulate Sending Particles of Light into the Past, Strengthening the Case that Time Travel is Possible ::

Oh nameless one.

As yet unnamed. 

              left unnamable—

of unconceivable 

           		     inwrought with flowers.
                       Nomen nescio,



	   and forwards until 

                         the flattened turf

                           and becomes 
                  as a line. 

I would teach 

             you how to cross over

bunny ears. 

              Rabbit running 
around a tree.     
                   Hiding from a dog, jumping in the hole.

—As simple as a track in the snow or a stone circle—

everything I could not. May not. Will not.


:: Breaking Wheel ::

And so we believed:  


        cathedrals down from heaven,
	     blind pierced traceries—

             looks like a rose,
                   named for the Saint 
            	            we sentenced to execution 
                                    on a spiked 

                             Bones of collars,
     			                  and toes, spurred
                             splayed with lavender veins
                                                like lacework:
                tear apart the prayer bead pods, 
                spilling scarlet 
		              poison over
                       the thin luminous place where
	        mothers hand us their 

                Not only because of the girl 
                             who lost her sight 	
                     carving 100 ivory elephants 
                              to slip into
   		              rosary pea-seeds. 
                     Or the mother hawk’s 
                              breaking femur			
	         as metal wildlife bands 
                                             and fishing wire 
		               constrict her leg.
                               Or the daughters in a small town
                   from naps—stuttering, twitching,
                               arms flailing, uttering 
                      strange sounds:  hysterical 
             no longer to have to follow the father.
		                To see
            the mother falling, splintering 
                            our looking glass.
                      For her to fall again.

              To lift her up.  For her to let me.


From the writer

:: Account ::

An astrologer told me this year that I’m in the mid­dle of the Eighth House, a peri­od rep­re­sent­ing trans­for­ma­tion and death. What­ev­er you want to call it, I can report that in the last year my par­ents both passed away, I quit my job, and I left an indus­try I’ve been a part of since 1980. I am now free to cre­ate a new world more reflec­tive of myself and who I want to become.

L’Esperance Trail” was writ­ten in response to the after­math of two Cat. 5 hur­ri­canes on the Caribbean island of St. John in 2017. My vis­it this past spring, the sev­enth, was notable for the alter­ation of land­scape and town. Hill­sides were washed away, and more than six months after the cat­a­stro­phe, three quar­ters of the hous­es still only have blue tarps as roofs. But there’s a whole world to which our sens­es, espe­cial­ly as tourists, are not attuned. And that is where I look in this poem for find­ing a pas­sage out of shambles.

Physi­cists Sim­u­late Send­ing Par­ti­cles of Light into the Past, Strength­en­ing the Case that Time Trav­el is Pos­si­ble”: As I come to terms with the notion that I am the last of my fam­i­ly, hav­ing no chil­dren of my own, I mourn the loss. I keep going over it in my mind, try­ing to come to terms with it, imag­in­ing dif­fer­ent out­comes. I nev­er con­sid­ered names for a child, and in read­ing about mis­car­riages, and the mourn­ing of them, I’m struck by how lit­tle I imag­ined of my own daugh­ter or son.

Break­ing Wheel” is a bit more spe­cif­ic about the path to take from here on: it involves let­ting go of inher­it­ed beliefs, includ­ing patri­ar­chal, so destruc­tive that one could lose sight and vision. When I start­ed this poem, my moth­er was still alive but our rela­tion­ship was shift­ing. I was moth­er­ing her rather than her attend­ing to me. At the same time, I was read­ing about high school girls in Le Roy, NY—each with unsta­ble famil­ial relationships—awakening with symp­toms of hysteria.

To com­mu­ni­cate the the­mat­ic slip­page and nar­ra­tive insta­bil­i­ties in these three poems, I’ve made my lines pre­cip­i­tous, plum­met­ing ver­ti­cal­ly, enjamb­ment spi­ral­ing down­ward as words veer and skid, con­stel­lat­ing around dif­fer­ent degrees of white space, depend­ing on sub­ject. “L’Esperance Trail” has the most reg­u­lar­ized lines, flush left, while the right mar­gin spills toward a moment of self-dis­cov­ery. Here, a “step­ping off” of lines fol­lows the narrator’s sud­den aware­ness, offered in an aside. Some­body recent­ly sug­gest­ed this con­trast between con­trol and chaos may be a sig­na­ture of my writing.

Break­ing Wheel” tum­bles, but through a pat­tern of most­ly six-line stan­zas, to offer con­tain­ment to thoughts, also to acknowl­edge the­mat­ic restric­tions to which the nar­ra­tor is respond­ing. Maybe grief calls for more white space. And so the third poem, “Physi­cists Sim­u­late Send­ing Par­ti­cles of Light into the Past, Strength­en­ing the Case that Time Trav­el is Pos­si­ble,” descends through a page where white space car­ries equal weight to lines, giv­ing pause, giv­ing voice to the unsayable, unnam­able, incon­ceiv­able. At least, that’s the idea. That’s the hope.


Page Hill Starzinger’s first poet­ry col­lec­tion, Ves­ti­gial, was pub­lished by Bar­row Street in 2013 (win­ner of the 2012 prize judged by Lynn Emanuel). Her chap­book, Unshel­ter, was pub­lished by Noe­mi Press in 2009 (win­ner of the 2008 con­test judged by Mary Jo Bang). Her poems have appeared in Col­orado Review, Den­ver Quar­ter­ly, Fence, Keny­on Review, Lit­er­ary Imag­i­na­tion, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, Tri­Quar­ter­ly, and Volt, among oth­er jour­nals. Her first book review is live now on Keny­on Review Online.